Black Garlic is really special. It’s like black gold. It adds depth to dishes that you didn’t know needed depth. It’s like a mellow garlic that just seeps into the other flavors of a dish without overpowering like raw garlic can. Raw garlic can be a total slap in the face if you want it to be. But black garlic is rich and delicious like molasses or balsamic vinegar. Black garlic is sort of similar to caramelized garlic but not exactly.
You see, black garlic is born out of the Maillard Reaction, not fermentation, that takes place over several weeks during which the bulbs are heated in a humid environment. Now, you might be asking yourself, what is this Maillard Reaction thing?
The Maillard Reaction (pronunciation: my-YAR), named after Louis-Camille Maillard who first described it in 1912, is a chemical reaction that takes place between amino acids and the reducing of sugars which gives browed foods their distinctive flavor. By browned foods, I mean things like, seared steaks, cookies, roasted coffee, toasted marshmallows, black garlic, and many more. The reaction is a form of non-enzymatic browning which takes place around 280 to 330 °F which is below the temperature thresholds for caramelization.
Now, where did black garlic come from? It was first used in Asian Cuisine. In Taoist mythology, it’s supposed to grant immortality. In Korea, it was, and still is, considered a health product. It is said to be rich in antioxidants. It’s added to energy drinks, and in Thailand, it’s claimed to increase longevity. Garlic alone has some remarkable health benefits which could explain these Asian claims.
Anyways, black garlic had me fascinated so I tracked down some in my local grocery story and I was taken aback by the price tag. $6.99 for two bulbs. Seriously? I can usually get four bulbs of garlic for $1. Needless to say, I didn’t buy it. Instead, I opted for the rice cooker method and some patience.
Grab that rice cooker you have stashed in your cupboard and set it up in an out of the way corner of your kitchen. Next, toss in some garlic bulbs, papery skins and all. I suggest several cloves of garlic so that you don’t run out between batches. Anyways, close the lid. Hit the “Warm” button, set a reminder alert on your phone, and walk away. Two weeks later, open up that rice cooker and pull out your little black garlic bulbs.
*Note, during these two weeks you’ll come home to a house that smells of garlic. You’ll probably be craving a fresh baguette, some butter, and a smear of this delicious black gold, but please refrain. I promise your patience will pay off and you’ll be able to use these little nuggets in all sorts of amazing recipes, like black garlic infused butter on a juicy medium rare steak. Yum!
I’m thinking of trying this with elephant garlic. Has anyone made black garlic out of elephant garlic? Who else is obsessed with black garlic? And, am I the only one who doesn’t mind if their house smells like garlic? What have you added black garlic to?